Eat fish. More fish. And more. This is what we hear constantly – and for good reason. Historically fish was a staple of our diet while our bodies were evolving, and our bodies need the rich nutrients found in fish – with Omega 3 and other Omega fatty acids being essential [our bodies can’t manufacture these themselves]. Fish is also an excellent protein source, B12, selenium, B6, magnesium, and niacin….just to list a few.
Why historically? Doesn’t fish still contain all of this rich nutrient mix, or have our bodies changed and no longer benefit from it? I can assure you it is not the latter.
The problem comes in when you look at the contamination factor – thanks to our modern society we have managed to introduce mercury into almost every type of fish – even wild fish from the ocean can contain mercury, and the problem can be worse with lake or river caught fish. There is plenty of information available on the internet [and your local library if you still leverage that as a resource]as to which types of fish are lowest in Mercury. Suffice it to say that Salmon is one of the lowest in contamination with mercury, and is always a safe bet – well, almost.
However, another lurking “bad guy” is very seldom discussed – and that is the topic of “farmed” versus “wild caught” fish. Typically most stores will carry fresh or frozen behind the meat counter, and some may label or offer both wild caught and farm raised. “Farm raised” conjures up positive images of fish living the easy life in a contained pond with no natural predators, fed on a regular schedule – basically a very luxurious life that produces really good fish for us to consume. POP that bubble before you get too far into your day dream!
The reality is this for the majority of “fish farms” that produce fish for your local grocery store as well as a surprising number of restaurants:
- Farm raised fish live in very crowded conditions – much more so than in the wild. This causes stress and frequent skin and fin injuries due to moving in close quarters with way too many other fish.
- Farm raised fish eat a very unnatural diet – one that their bodies weren’t optimized for [kind of like us eating donuts and Twinkies for all of our meals], and which changes their body chemistry and nutritional profile
- This includes grains, soy, and other scrap protein sources that are cheap. Some of this is often genetically modified grains and corns, which also may have significant traces of pesticide residue on it [i.e. no testing is required and fish feed is not regulated, so it all comes down to cost]
- Antibiotics are often introduced into the feed or water to prevent serious disease from occurring due to the frequent injuries
- In July 2003, the Environmental Working Group released the results of a study into farmed Salmon where they found that farmed salmon are likely the most PCB-contaminated protein source in the U.S. food supply. On average farmed salmon have 16 times the dioxin-like PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the dioxin-like PCBs found in other seafood.
- PCB’s have been linked to cancer – so eating farmed Salmon increases your intake of a potentially cancer causing chemical by more than 16 times than any other food
Don’t take my word for it – spend 10 minutes researching on Google and read the reports – farmed Salmon and any other type of fish can be a very risky proposition.
All of this information may be scaring you away from fish – that isn’t the message here however. Eating fish should be a part of any healthy diet, and if you are working to lose weight and increase your health it is even more important. However, as with many aspects of a healthy diet, you have to do a little research and ensure you are aware of the various choices of fish available, and make informed decisions in order to achieve the benefits you are looking for.
Ever since starting on a journey to lose weight, I continue to spend more and more time researching food choices and what they mean to my health as well as my progress in losing weight.